The dazzling metropolis of Salvador da Bahia is a colourful melting pot of indigenous, European and African culture. The heart of Brazil pulsates here - among other things at the largest and most exuberant street carnival in the world.
The top sights of Salvador da Bahia - apart from the dreamlike city beaches - are mainly to be found in the pretty upper town (Cidade Alta). Colourful colonial buildings, cosy cafés and an incredible number of churches characterise the attractive city centre of Salvador da Bahia.
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Farol da Barra
The Farol da Barra has guarded the coast of Salvador since 1839, making it the oldest lighthouse in South America. The 22m-high tower on the picturesque Praia do Porto da Barra now houses a maritime museum. Farol da Barra is also one of the few places in Brazil to watch the sun sink into the sea.
Tip: The city beaches of Salvador da Bahia are a sight in themselves. Starting at Farol da Barra, one paradisiacal sandy beach after another stretches for a gigantic 80 kilometres from the upper city to the lower city.
Largo da Pelourinho
With its cobblestone streets, pastel-coloured façades and magnificent churches, the Pelourinho district is probably the most beautiful area of Salvador.
Once slaves were sold here at the "pillory", today Pelourinho is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. On the central Largo da Pelourinho, you encounter its African heritage with art and capoeira on every corner.
Terreiro de Jesus
Also in the Pelourinho district is the palm-lined Terreiro de Jesus. Numerous buildings worth seeing are grouped around a cast-iron fountain, with countless stalls selling drinks, snacks and souvenirs in between.
Highlights include the cathedral, which is decorated all over with gold, the Afro-Brazilian museum and the Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Domingos with its magnificent ceiling painting.
Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco
The Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco on Praça Anchieta was built in the 18th century and nominated as one of Brazil's Seven Wonders of the World because of its ornate façade. Virtually every square centimetre of sandstone was used here by an unknown artist to immortalise his sculpting skills with sculptures, wreaths and garlands.
Igreja de São Francisco
The Igreja de São Francisco is right next to the Igreja da Ordem Terceira de São Francisco, next to whose façade the simple church almost pales into insignificance. Only inside does it become clear why it is considered the most magnificent baroque church in Salvador. Over 150 years, the church was given a simply breathtaking interior with carvings, figures and ornaments made of a ton of gold.
Palácio Rio Branco
The snow-white Palácio Rio Branco on Praça Tomé de Souza was built in 1549 as Brazil's first government building. Today, the city administration is located in the building opposite. Behind the richly decorated façade of the Palácio Rio Branco are Bahia's cultural and economic centre, the tourism office and a small history museum.
Right next to the Palácio Rio Branco is the entry point to the Elevador Lacerda. The historic open-air lift connects the upper city with the lower city and is considered a landmark of Salvador da Bahia. When it opened in 1873, the Elevador Lacerda was the highest lift in the world. At the top of its 63 metres, there is a magnificent view of the Bay of All Saints and the bright yellow Mercado Modelo.
The Mercado Modelo in the lower town is the most important market hall in Salvador. 250 small shops sell food, clothing, art, musical instruments, jewellery, ceramics, leather goods and much more. On the upper floor, numerous restaurants serve typical Bahian cuisine.
Igreja do Bonfim
The beautiful Igreja do Bonfim is also located in Salvador's lower town and is the centre of the lively annual folk festival "Festa do Senhor do Bonfim". Due to the magnificent procession, it is one of the most visited of Salvador's 350 churches. Away from the hustle and bustle of the festival, it is worth buying a colourful bracelet at the church, which brings good luck to the wearer.
Salvador da Bahia Carnival
The ten-day Festa do Senhor do Bonfim is only surpassed by the world-famous Brazilian Carnival. Although Rio is considered Brazil's carnival stronghold, the biggest street party in the world actually takes place in Salvador at carnival time. Around 2.5 million people celebrate more exuberantly than anywhere else during the 6 "nights of ecstasy".